Three main categories of inflatable boats exist on the market. The Rigid Inflatable Boat (R.I.B), Performance Rigid Roll-ups and the Collapsible models.
The RIBs offer higher performance capability and stability as a sport boat. In comparison to standard aluminum or fiberglass boats, RIBs are lighter in weight and provide higher performance with a smaller size engine. They provide virtually maintenance free use and are very popular both as tenders and sport boats. We recommend a fiberglass hull with gel coat over an aluminum hull for a RIB.
What's for you : You need to consider how you intend to use your inflatable boat. This will influence the design and sizes of boat that best meet your needs.
Such considerations should include: Number of passengers and gear you will normally carry, to estimate the weight capacity. Room needed for bulky equipment and supplies. What type of conditions and elements you will expose your boat to. Do you intend to use this as a tender, sport-boat, fishing, diving, hunting, etc? It is important that the model be capable of rolling up or would the performance and low maintenance of a Rigid be more beneficial?
Inflatable Boats... What's out there ?
A well constructed fiberglass hull is just as light (see specifications), and easier to maintain and repair than an aluminum hull. You must also beware of corrosion and electrolysis, the added difficulties of welded repairs, and poor adhesion of paint and glue when using an aluminum hull.
The Performance Rigid Roll-up is designed with ease of storage and a low overall weight in mind. This model can be rolled up and stored with the floor system still inside the boat. Assembly is simply to inflate the boat. No need for a flat surface and it can even be assembled hanging from the halyard.
The fully Collapsible models offer a more rigid floor system than the roll up model but do so with some drawbacks. The floor system is typically made of wood which will eventually require some maintenance. Also, the assembly of the boat is increased because the boards must be removed every time the boat is collapsed. The horsepower rating is typically higher for these models than roll-ups.